Thursday, February 22, 2007

Thats all?

Some not very perspicuous analysis from Nathan Bracken on why Australia were unable to defend two very big totals in their recent series against New Zealand:
Bracken said the phenomenon could be explained by small grounds and carefree batsman with "nothing to lose" slogging away. "As a bowler, it is always tough going into a situation knowing the opposition are going to come out without a care in the world," Bracken said yesterday. "You get in a position when a team is chasing that sort of score they have nothing to lose. "They can come out and if they get knocked over for 120 and lose the game, they can say: 'oh, we were chasing 340, so be it'. "They are in a position where they can come out and play any shot they want to play, chasing fours and sixes, without the consequence hanging over them. "It can be tough to bowl in those situations. You have to get on top early or it can get tricky."
Bracken is correct, but only partially, and that part which is correct is pretty superficial. Small grounds have been around for a very long time; run chases of the magnitude we are talking about here haven't been common all along, have they? Have batsmen just become increasingly "without a care in the world"? I doubt it - the mental attitude Bracken refers to has always been around, but by and large it hasn't worked. Why have these big run chases become more common? And bowlers should fancy batsmen coming at them, shouldn't they? And what "consequences" is Bracken talking about? Batsmen still stand to lose their wicket, teams still stand to lose games. Successful high-scoring chases require a confluence of factors - someone playing out of his skin on the batting side, a friendly wicket, and some bad bowling and fielding. To lay it all on a "nothing to lose" mentality is to sidestep the issue (and would Bracken like to extend his analysis to the third ODI as well, where Australia clearly let New Zealand off the hook, after having them down and out?). For a more accurate picture of where things went wrong, read Hussey's comments in the same piece.

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